Summer is a fun time. The kids are out of school, or only in summer school for part of
the time. It’s hot and people are doing a lot of outdoor activities, going to beaches and
county fairs and all those things we associate with summer. It is wonderful to have a
good time with the family or at camp but there are some things to keep in mind.
Children from infancy through age 5 or 6 years, when they cannot swim because of
their age or training, are at a special risk of drowning. Contrary to things you might
hear on TV or the internet, babies and young children do not automatically know how
to swim. If you take a young child or baby on a boat, they should be wearing a life vest
fitted to their size, and you should be wearing one too. If you have an accident, you will
be busy trying to save the child, and even if you are a strong swimmer, your efforts will
be directed towards the child. If you wear a vest, you will be more able to assist them.
If you are injured, having them wear a vest may save their lives. This applies even for
short boat rides, canoe trips, kayak use, etc. We here in the Adirondacks have heard
enough in the news about unexpected waves capsizing even large boats.
When your child is over 2, consider enrolling them in a water safety or swimming
course. The local YMCA is often a good resource for this type of training; but, even
if your child has demonstrated good swimming skills, he or she should never be
unsupervised in water. The tragedies we encounter as doctors when we are called
to the ER for a drowning victim always include a parent stating that “I only left for a
minute.” A minute is usually more than that, and enough time for a child to drown, even
in shallow water. Kids drown in kiddie pools, buckets of water and decorative fish ponds
in gardens. If you are hosting or at a pool party, or at the beach, an adult should be
designated as the child “watcher” and should never be more than an arm’s length away.
Even if you are at a beach with a lifeguard, you should be the one responsible for your
child’s safety in the water. Tubes, floats and other beach toys are NOT going to keep
your child safe. That being said, every child should at some point learn to swim, even if
their parents do not know how or are afraid of the water.
Sun block will help prevent sunburn. We all know that. The “SPF” number on the
product is not as important as the frequency that it is placed on the skin. A number 15
applied every 2 hours will be more effective than a number 50 put on in the morning and
never reapplied. We all need some sun exposure to assist in vitamin D helping calcium
get into our bones, but early and frequent sunburn will increase your child’s chances
of developing a skin cancer at some point. (We will address tanning salons in a later